A MOTHER desperate to stop drug deaths and prevent children and young people being dragged into the misery of county lines exploitation is calling on Boris Johnson to take real action.

Tammy Kirkwood, from near Thirsk, fears more children are at risk because of the lack of effective government action.

"She says her son was just 14 when grooming started and he became caught up in a nightmare world of violence drugs and intimidation.

“It was horrendous,” said Tammy. “He had a loving, supportive family and we couldn’t stop it.

Read more: Leah Heyes: Northallerton mum's drug law campaign goes to Parliament

"He was still coming in at 9pm but in the meantime he was involved in county lines. I went to the police, they knew what was happening, but it carried on. He was badly beaten, he had a broken eye socket, broken nose, broken hand, he was terrified.”

In May 2019, when he was 17 he supplied MDMA to an 18 year who supplied it to 15 year old Leah Heyes, from Northallerton with catastrophic results, Leah died within hours of taking the drugs.

The teenagers admitted supplying class A Drugs, and were sentenced to 21 months and 12 months in jail, both serving six months. 

“It shouldn’t have happened, Leah should still be here, there was terrible guilt, when it comes to something such as Mother’s Day it’s appalling because I still have a son. You wait for that horrendous day when the knock comes on the door. You just can’t imagine how terrible it is, we need to take action and do something to try and change this, it’s not easy but it has to be done,” added Tammy.

Read more: Kerry Roberts, mum of Leah Heyes, speaks on Instagram drugs

Boris Johnson has announced a 10-year plan for tackling drug gangs and the ‘kingpins’ behind supplies, dismantling county lines. But Tammy believes they have to have specific help for the young teenagers being recruited.

She added: “They have the National Referral Mechanism, police and social care are first responders, but the police are more concerned about getting convictions they don’t treat the youngsters as victims, they’re exploited but they’re treated as criminals. That is what they are using for county lines exploitation, they haven’t changed the policy they are concentrating on modern slavery, but they also need to address the young British adults who are being used.

“The Referral Mechanism needs to be an autonomous body. Everyone of those children involved in County Lines need a care coordinator and the government needs an outside agency to do it. It all needs revising as it does not protect young British children or vulnerable adults it was made to protect refugees this needs updating.

“Boris’ crackdown has not mentioned what support they see for child criminal exploitation he just talks about putting them in jail a national prevention plan needs to be put in place. Now is the time to do this before more children’s lives are ruined and families are left devastated.”

Tammy and Kerry Roberts, Leah Heyes’ mum are working on drug issues and child exploitation with North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe. Kerry is also campaigning for Leah’s Law which would make it illegal for under 16’s to be supplied with drugs.


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